You’d think that with the stinging legal defeat arising from the district’s attempt to prevent you from seeing the documents requested by ex-HR manager John Caldecott that there would be at least one person on Bear St. who would raise his or her hand and say, “Enough!”

But that didn’t happen. A few months ago, Caldecott asked for more records. The district said no and Caldecott sued to have them revealed. Again. I’ve just been told that the district has lost. Again. Not only will they have to release the documents, they will have to pay Caldecott’s legal fees. Again.

This is the type of mismanagement that has caused three people to run against the incumbents, the type of mismanagement that makes people leery of all government, and the type of mismanagement that takes money away from the education of our children.

Instead of a single, rational voice questioning whether fighting this latest request was a good idea, the district went all in. Doubled down.

This is a good time to remind everyone that while the mismanagement issues have been brought up here and elsewhere for awhile, it was one person who opened the door to let the rest of see just how bad it really was and is. After ten years of service to the district, he was sent a text telling him to check his e-mail, which was a message telling him he was fired. The school board refused his request to hear his side of the story, voting 7-0 to support the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate his employment.

So, he took his whistleblower ball and went to an attorney and demanded that the district reveal documents that showed more funny stuff than the Sunday comics. Paying someone not to retire is chicken feed. There is much more.

The district lost against him at every turn. Not only did they have to reveal the docs, they had to pay his legal fees. Correction: YOU had to pay his legal fees. It’s YOUR money and it does not grow on a tree in the backyard at Bear St. Tens of thousands of people in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach pay their taxes with the understanding that the district will be good stewards of their money.

But instead, they used your money to pay legal fees for resisting the release of documents revealing activities that never should have happened in the first place. There was no transparency here, folks – they tried to prevent you from seeing what they had done and how your money was spent.

And the guy who did and is doing all this has not made a dime. He has not sued the district for money due to wrongful termination, hostile working environment, or any other case that could be made against his former employer.

He is doing this for the same reason he raised his hand and questioned things when he was working for us at the HR guy: He is seeking justice.

He’s that guy John Caldecott. Maybe you like him, maybe you don’t. Maybe you like his style, maybe you don’t. But there is one thing I firmly believe: The current rash of people who are finally fighting the district on everything from Swun math to finances to botched stadium development, and who are running for office against the incumbents, got at least part of their courage from John Caldecott.

So did, I believe,  Ann Huntington and Laura Boss, two long-timers who are suing the district, claiming hostile working environment.

It’s not enough for you to be upset over your cause, whether it’s Swun math, the stadium at CdM High, the loss of programs, term limits, or whatever concerns you. You must also fight for the larger cause that is the decades-old DNA of a school board that acts more like a club than a governing body making the ultimate decisions over a nearly $300 million budget; A school board that has resisted transparency and accountability for decades and promotes arrogance and complacency.

If you don’t – if WE don’t – we’ll get more of what we’ve always gotten.

Steve Smith

 

 

 

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